What Gen Z looks for in a presidential candidate

For this week’s political column, I decided to do something a bit different. The goal of my weekly column is to represent what teens are looking for in the 2020 candidates. In this vein, I reached out to some of my fellow journalists who will be voting in the next election to see what issues they value. I have compiled them below. 


“Probably education and the treatment of the mentally ill and the criminal justice system. Not a lot of people are speaking up about mental illness or rape. I would really like a candidate who would make things easier for people who are struggling whether it’s minorities or women who have been assaulted or mentally ill people who have committed crimes.”

—Senior Shelby Sperling

“Gun control and secondly wealth inequality. I wanna feel safe living. Being one of the most developed and affluent countries, it’s ridiculous we have so many people who are homeless.”

—Senior Adam Jasper

“The first thing I look for in a candidate is their stance on social issues. I think equality is important. I think a lot of things are easy fixes and I don’t know why they haven’t been fixed yet. I think raising minimum wage and gun control are examples of that.”

—Senior Iszy Coco

“Campaign finance reform and free and fair elections. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are the only people talking about. It’s not the only thing I’m considering, but it has a lot of say in my decision.”

—Senior Jack McManus

“I’m really into reform. I think we need to reform the judicial system. There’s a reason why we have the highest incarceration rate per capita. I think it starts with police and the incentives they have to arrest people. Then it goes to the courts and inequity for people to defend themselves. There’s an emphasis on incarceration over reform. Like you do something bad and then are shunned.”

—Senior Mina Mashhoon

“I look for a candidate that puts the American people first over all countries and corporations no matter what.”

—Senior Jake LaBarbiera


As you can see, there is no one issue that every single student prioritizes on this list. Our values, like the rest of the U.S. population, differ due to our upbringing, our experiences and our surroundings. 

According to Pew Research, “Gen Z is the most diverse in history, and just over half of them non-Hispanic whites.” The research also found that 70 percent of Gen Zers believe that the government should do more to solve problems, while only 49 percent of Boomers would say the same. 

This difference in viewpoints and makeup is probably why there is such a divide not only between party lines, but between generations. Because of Gen Z’s more liberal viewpoints on social issues, this upcoming election will be very interesting. For many in my generation it will be our first time voting, and we have quite a few candidates to choose from. 

Currently, in the 2020 presidential race, there are 17 Democrats and three Republicans. Each has a unique plan to reform the country and attracts a different demographic of voters. The only problem is, come election time, will our country be able to settle on one candidate to lead? Or, will our country split in half again as it did the day after the results of the 2016 election were announced?

I really hope that, despite our differences, Republicans and Democrats alike in my generation and all generations can take some more time to listen to each other. We all have things we would like to change, but in order to make this change we must be able to listen to the other side first. 

Thanks for reading and thanks to everyone who contributed to the quote collection above. Feel free to leave your own thoughts, comments or questions down below and check back next week for another update on the 2020 election.